Facebook: Online, everyone can hear you update your status

This page was written by students, for students.

A guide to online safety - for students, by students

Think of computers in the IC, and what comes to mind? I don't know about you, but for me it's Facebook. Judging by the number of people that are checking it, you'd think that CiCS had it set as the default homepage.
The thing is, like everyone else, I need Facebook. I may be 1000 words short for this essay that's due in at 9am tomorrow, but I've just got to check those photos from last night's party - I've been tagged in some of them, which is kind of handy because I can't remember much after we left the pub...
...Wow. I look pretty rough! And what am I doing in that one?! Wouldn't want my mum seeing that, I'd never get over the embarrassment!

62% of employers check Facebook & other networking sites when hiring

1 year later...

It's only now that I'm working on my CV and looking for jobs that I've started to think about what I've put online. It is now common practice for UK employers to check Facebook profiles when recruiting graduates - that means it's more than likely they'll check my profile when they receive my application. That's a bit of scary thought. If they saw some of my wall posts they'd never offer me a job!

Risk of Identity Theft

It's not just potential employers I need to think about - identify theft is becoming increasingly common in the UK, with websites providing con artists with a wealth of readily-available personal data.
I now appreciate that if I post my name, date of birth and contact details on a site such as Facebook I'm setting myself up to be a victim of ID theft.
It's not just friends who are able to access that information: when adding applications to Facebook I'm asked to allow third party companies to access my data - but how can I know that these applications aren't just fronts for organisations intent on harvesting data from online networks? The truth is, there are such Facebook Apps out there, and so I can't be sure.

Using Facebook to let off steam (best avoided)

It's also worth bearing in mind that the university can (and will) take action against any students who post offensive or defamatory material about any member of staff. I find that when I have a problem with my course the best people to talk to about it are those running it, or a student representative - not the entire world!

Protect yourself against ID theft and nosey employers!


You may not be looking for a job yet and you may think that ID theft is something that only happens to other people, but the truth is, if you are a Facebook User, you need to be thinking about these things.

Here's some simple steps you can take to stay safe:

  1. Don't post anything anywhere on the Internet that could damage your reputation in any way - avoid stuff you wouldn't want your mum, your lecturers or your boss to see (even if you think they can't access it)
  2. Adjust your privacy settings in order to restrict access to your private information - it's easy to do in Facebook (see video below, or visit Sophos)
  3. Try to avoid adding third-party applications to your Facebook profile. OK, so you may not be able to give your friend a Vampire Bite, but at least you won't find your real-life bank account emptied by some vampire-producing scam artist
  4. Choose your friends wisely. Only add people who you really do know.

How To Stay Safe On Facebook

If someone is hassling you on Facebook, or posting stuff which you'd rather not have associated with yourself, there are simple ways to deal with us: check out Facebook's own Safety FAQs.

See also: Advice from CiCS on staying safe on Facebook.


Social networking sites can be great places to share information about your course, but it's important that you recognise that there is a fine line between collaboration (which may be acceptable, depending on the nature of the assignment) and collusion (a form of plagiarism where two or more people work together to produce a piece of work, all or part of which is then submitted by each of them as their own individual work - otherwise known as cheating!).

You might decide to create a Facebook group in order to work with friends on an assignment, and this may be acceptable or even encouraged to a certain extent. However, if you all end up submitting an essay with identical ideas and wording you may find yourselves being investigated by the university. Even if you have not copied anyone else, bear in mind that if someone copies you, you too may fall under suspicion.

Plagiarism problems on social networking sites

Don't plagiarise! Be aware that any material published online that might suggest that collusion or other types of plagiarism has taken place is potentially available to the whole world - that includes your tutors.



So you've seen this great picture on a photo-sharing site that would be a perfect illustration for your presentation. You save it to your desktop and then drop it into your PowerPoint, ready to wow your audience!

But what about copyright? If you don't reference where the image came from, you could be infringing upon the creator's rights.

If there is anyone in the picture, you will also need their permission to use it.


Remember the You Tube video "IC Girls" that rocked Sheffield in early 2008? This video is a good example of what copyright issues you may face if you decide to use or create video footage as a part of your course.

There are a couple of things to think about here:

  1. Has the student sought permission to use the backing track music?
  2. Has the student sought permission from everyone in the film to post them on You Tube?

This may seem a bit over the top, but these kinds of issues are now frequently hitting the headlines. It's important that we be aware of them, both for our university work and furture careers.

How to avoid infringing upon copyright

  1. When looking for images, check for the CreativeCommons symbol (What is Creative Commons?). In Flickr's Advanced Search you can choose to only look for photos that have a Creative Commons license
  2. Provide a clear reference for the photo or video that you are using if it is not your own, as in the example above. Remember that even if you took the photo, if it is hosted on a 3rd party site such as Flickr you must provide a link back to it
  3. Make sure any music that you use in videos is not copyright protected
  4. Get permission from anyone who appears in your photos or feature films before showing them in public

The use of online resources in education (and the workplace) is increasingly common - and so are the problems connected with their use! By following these guidelines (and using common sense), you should be able to avoid any trouble.

Article by: Joseph Tame, Student Ambassador for School of East Asian Studies 2007/08 and self-confessed Facebook Addict